The former chairman and CEO of Brown-Forman, Owsley Brown II, has died.

Owsley Brown II, who retired from the company in 2007, passed away last night after a brief illness, Brown-Forman confirmed today (27 September). He was 69.

Having started his career in the family firm in 1968, Brown became CEO in 1993 and added the title of chairman two years later. He retired from the CEO role in 2005, as chairman in 2007, and from the board of directors in 2008.

“Owsley was a personal friend to so many of us across the world and we are all shocked and saddened by his premature death,” said Brown-Forman's CEO, Paul Varga. “His combined analytical and creative talents enabled him to be both a visionary and a practical steward of the company’s business. He generously shared these unique gifts to build Brown-Forman into the global success it is today and to establish long-lasting friendships throughout our industry.”

He is survived by his wife, Christy; three children, Owsley III (Victoire), Brooke Barzun (Matthew), and Augusta Holland (Gill); and nine grandchildren.